Sunday, July 28, 2013

Review of "Blackmoore: A Proper Romance"

Rating: 5 Stars
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Review: After reading Julianne Donaldson's first novel, "Edenbrooke," I knew she as an author who would soon become one of my favorites. "Blackmoore" more than confirmed that first impression. Donaldson's romances truly are "proper romances." They are clean with a satisfying degree of tension between the hero and heroine. Along with some adventure, subplots, and an English setting, the novels are almost impossible to put down.  "Blackmoore," like "Edenbrooke" is a fairly quick read because it is so easy to get engrossed in the plot!  I was actually disappointed when I noticed that I was 90% through the book on my Kindle.  My disappointment stemmed from not wanting to finish such an enjoyable book so soon. 

Donaldson's plot is worthy of a Austenesque-style movie.  A caged bird is a poignant symbol throughout the novel, existing songless in a dark room while other birds sing freely outside. The themes of freedom, love, and devotion resonate through the plot and find wings through the main characters, Kate and Henry. Kate is a strong-willed young woman who is fighting for freedom while resisting the urge to embrace the future that Henry offers. The romantic feelings between Henry and Kate are fairly obvious to the reader, though both characters withhold the desires of their hearts. Kate's personal reflections give more background into her relationship with Henry and her conviction to never marry. Watching her reject Henry's love is painful, especially in light of his heartwarming devotion.  The obstacles to a future relationship between Kate and Henry keep the plot interesting as their time spent together becomes charged with the electricity of their love. Until the end, Donaldson keeps Kate and Henry teetering on the brink of flying on the wings of love or falling from a broken heart.

The setting of "Blackmoore" is as alive as the characters.  Donaldson paints a vivid scene of contrast between the English moors and the powerful ocean.  The sprawling estate of Blackmoore makes me think of "Northanger Abbey" and "Jane Eyre" with its Gothic style and hidden secrets.  England's countryside always holds intrigue for me; and combined with an irresistible story, books like "Blackmoore" and "Edenbooke" quickly become some of my favorite novels.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Shadow Mountain Publishing through Net Galley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Summary from Shadow Mountain Publishing: At eighteen, Kate Worthington knows she should be getting serious about marriage, but her restless heart won’t let her settle down. To escape her mother’s meddlesome influence, she dreams of traveling to exotic India. When the opportunity arises, Kate finds herself making a bargain with her mother: she will be allowed to go only if she spends a season at the family’s wealthy estate, Blackmoore, where she must secure— and reject—three marriage proposals. Enlisting the help of her dearest childhood friend, Henry Delafield, Kate sets out to collect her proposals so she can be on her way. But Henry’s decision to help threatens to destroy both of their dreams in ways they could never imagine. With hints of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, Blackmoore is a page-turning tale of romance, intrigue, and devotion.  

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Review of "Born of Persuasion"

Rating: 5 Stars
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Review: Unpredictable, rich, and dramatic, "Born of Persuasion" is a captivating debut novel.  Jessica Dotta's style is described as reminiscent of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, and the influence is clear from the beginning.  A few of Dotta's characters called to mind some personalities from Jane Austen's works. The English countryside with its quaint cottages and imposing estates sets a familiar scene, perfectly complimenting the story that it frames.  

"Born of Persuasion" is vastly different from any of the inspirational, historical fiction novels that I have read in the past few years.  This is one book that is impossible to confuse with any other; it is undeniably unique.  Dotta establishes suspense and questions from the very first sentence and does not release the reader from the pull of the plot.  Told in first-person perspective by the heroine, Julia Elliston, the story leaves the reader questioning the motives of nearly every character. Foreshadowing is a common element used to hint at upcoming peril throughout the course of the plot.  Julia takes the reader into her personal confidence as she tells her oftentimes heartbreaking story.  Her decisions are not perfect and her faith is practically nonexistent.  She unveils her actions and their consequences slowly, building drama and keeping the reader's attention. 

I am still questioning the actions of certain characters and debating over who will ultimately be revealed as good and bad. There is enough of a conclusion to hint at the answers, but "Born of Persuasion" is full of so many unexpected turns that it is almost impossible to guess what the other two novels in the series may reveal.  The only downfall is that we must wait in anticipation for a year before the next novel, "Mark of Distinction," is released. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers through Net Galley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Summary from Tyndale: The year is 1838, and seventeen-year-old Julia Elliston’s position has never been more fragile. Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.

With two months to devise a better plan, Julia’s first choice to marry her childhood sweetheart is denied. But when a titled dowager offers to introduce Julia into society, a realm of possibilities opens. However, treachery and deception are as much a part of Victorian society as titles and decorum, and Julia quickly discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother’s mysterious past. Before she knows what’s happening, Julia finds herself a pawn in a deadly game between two of the country’s most powerful men. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own. But sometimes truth is elusive and knowledge is deadly.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Review of "Barefoot Summer" by Denise Hunter

Rating: 4 Stars
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Review:  Denise Hunter delivers another captivating novel in "Barefoot Summer," the first book in her newest series, "A Chapel Hill Romance."  True to its title, this novel evokes images of carefree, childhood summers full of innocence and fun that were spent at the river or beach.  "Barefoot  Summer"  is not just a lighthearted romance, but an emotional journey of two young adults, Beckett and Madison, with an entwined past shadowed by tragedy, heartache, and painful secrets.  

As a reader, I was immediately drawn into the story with Hunter's portrayal of Madison McKinley  
as a successful and grounded daughter in her closely-bonded family.  The warm interactions with her siblings and parents are in stark contrast to Beckett O'Reilly's broken family and shadowed past.  By telling the story through both Beckett's and Madison's perspectives, I sympathized with both individuals and wanted them to overcome the heartaches and emotional obstacles in their path.

Denise Hunter is an author who consistently delivers novels with emotional depth, a plot that develops at a steady pace, and a satisfying conclusion.  After meeting other friends and family members in "Barefoot Summer," I am eagerly anticipating her next novel in the "Chapel Springs" series.  I am very intrigued by Madison's sister, Jade, and her story that awaits within the pages of "Dancing with Fireflies," set to be released April 2014.     

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers through Book Sneeze. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Summary from Thomas Nelson Publishers: 
Madison’s heart has been closed for years. But one summer can change everything.

In the years since her twin brother’s drowning, Madison McKinley has struggled to put it behind her. Despite the support of her close-knit family and her gratifying job as a veterinarian in their riverside town, the loss still haunts her.
To find closure, Madison sets out to fulfill her brother’s dream of winning the town’s annual regatta. But first she has to learn to sail, and fast.
Beckett O’Reilly knows Madison is out of his league, but someone neglected to tell his heart. Now she needs his help—and he’ll give it, because he owes her far more than she’ll ever know.
Madison will do anything—even work with the infamous Beckett O’Reilly—to reach her goal. And as much as she’d like to deny it, the chemistry between them is electrifying. As summer wanes, her feelings for him grow and a fledgling faith takes root in her heart.
But Beckett harbors a secret that will test the limits of their new love. Can their romance survive summer’s challenges? And will achieving her brother’s dream give Madison the peace she desperately seeks?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Review of "A Bride for All Seasons"

Rating: 3.5 Stars
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Review:  "A Bride For All Seasons" is a collection of four novellas that will take readers on a journey filled with a mixture of quirky humor, obstacles, and romance.  Margaret Brownley begins with the tale of Mary-Jo who has faced her share of heartache and is eager to find love and her place in the world.  After arriving in town, she soon discovers that she must adjust and take a different path than she expected.  Like Mary-Jo, the remaining three brides also face challenges as they meet their potential husbands and unravel some misunderstandings caused by a meddlesome matchmaker at the Hitching Post Mail Order Bride Catalog.

These misconceptions create conflict for each of the plots and opportunities for the authors to incorporate humor in each of the stories.  Because each story is a novella,  the plot moves quickly and the relationship between the two characters develop more quickly.  As a reader, I can sometimes feel less connected to one or both of the characters in novellas because the authors have less time to convey the characters' past and feelings.  While reading "A Bride For All Seasons," I discovered that I liked each novella a little more than the previous.  Mary Connealy's 'Winter Wedding Bells" is a sweet love story that especially captures the emotions of both David and Megan and pulled me in as a reader as well.

"A Bride For All Seasons" is a charming quartet of novellas that are perfect for a summer afternoon or any season.  

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers through Net Galley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Summary from Thomas Nelson Publishers:
It All Started with an Ad in a Mail Order Bride Catalogue…Melvin Hitchcock of the Hitching Post Mail Order Bride Catalog isn’t dishonest—not exactly. If he tweaks his clients’ applications a bit, it’s because he’s looking out for their best interests.
This charming bouquet of novellas introduces four Hitching Post prospects in the year 1870, each one eager for second chances . . . and hungry for happiness. Year in, year out, they’ll learn that love often comes in unexpected packages.
And Then Came Spring by Margaret Brownley
Mary-Jo has been unlucky all her life. But who would guess she’d travel halfway across the country to meet her match . . . only to find him dead!
An Ever-After Summer by Debra Clopton
Ellie had no idea she’s not what Matthew ordered. And what’s wrong with being a “Bible thumper” anyway? She’s determined to show him she’s tougher than she looks—and just the girl he needs.
Autumn’s Angel by Robin Lee Hatcher
Luvena would be perfect for Clay if she didn’t come with kids. But kids are a deal breaker, especially in a rough-and-trouble mining town. The trouble is, there’s no money to send them back. . . 
Winter Wedding Bells by Mary Connealy
David’s convinced he’s not long for the world. He needs someone to mother his boys when he’s gone—nothing more. Can plucky Irish Megan convince him to work at living instead of dying?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Review of "Small Town Girl"

Rating: 3.5 Stars
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Review: Ann Gabhart's "Small Town Girl" is a gentle and quiet love story set in the quaint town of Rosey Corner, Kentucky.  While love is blooming, World War II is raging across the ocean and threatening the tranquil haven of the Merritt family.  Gabhart captures the fears and sentiments of Americans when the U.S. entered the war following the bombing of Pearl Harbor without actually taking readers into the war zone.  The military aspect is light, compared to some other novels that I have read set during the same era. The portrayal of emotions from the perspectives of a future soldier to the loved ones left behind, seem completely authentic and are probably similar to the feelings that veterans in our own families experienced.  Gabhart delves into the emotion of the war and integrates it into her love story between the lead characters Kate and Jay.   

There were a few times that I sensed a back story involving the Merritt family, and I just discovered that "Small Town Girl" is a follow-up to "Angel Sister."  Despite this, I connected with the primary and secondary characters early-on in the novel.  It is easy to support a union between Kate and Jay, especially when the irresistible Lorena offers her full support. Kate puts up barriers to their relationship initially which adds love-story style suspense.  Once those barriers are mostly removed midway the novel, the plot seems to slow.  There is a quaintness in the quiet Rosey Corner life, but it does not always create plot interest.  The onslaught of World War II helps the novel to pick-up speed as well as conflict between Kate and Jay.  "Small Town Girl" ends on a happy note, but the conflict and resolution could occur sooner to avoid the midway lags.  

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell, a Division of Baker Publishing Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Summary from Revell: How long can two people stand on the brink of love without plunging in headfirst?

In the autumn of 1941, rumors of war whisper through Rosey Corner. The town practically vibrates with apprehension, as if it is holding its breath. But for Kate Merritt, it seems life is letting out a prolonged sigh. As Kate watches her sister marry the man Kate has loved since she was fifteen, her heart is silently breaking. And even the attentions of Jay Tanner, the handsome best man, can't draw her interest.

Then suddenly, Pearl Harbor changes everything and Kate finds herself drawn to Jay in surprising ways. Could she truly be in love with him? And if he enlists, will she ever see him again?

In her gentle and textured style, Ann H. Gabhart tells a timeless story of love, sacrifice, and longing that will grip your heart and stir your spirit. Fans of Gabhart's Angel Sister will love seeing Kate Merritt all grown-up, as well as other characters they have come to love.

“Available July 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”


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